Gone are the days when convenience stores were small neighborhood shops and gas station stops where consumers could buy a confectionary treat along with some cigarettes and maybe a lottery ticket if they were feeling lucky. Now, convenience stores offer an expansive variety of products from fresh fruits and vegetables to ready-made meals, which is the reason why convenience store retailers experienced strong revenue growth for the first six months of 2018.
According to a survey conducted by NACS, 79 percent of convenience store retailers in the US experienced an increase in sales during the first half of 2018 compared to the same time last year. Over half (56 percent) of these retailers said that their fuel sales also increased during this period. In contrast, only nine percent of retailers said that in-store sales declined and 19 percent claimed that fuel sales declined.
C-store retailers claim that this impressive sales increase is due to the addition of healthier food and drink options in their stores. About 45 percent of convenience store retailers added or significantly expanded their selection of nutrition bars during the first half of 2018. Additionally, 41 percent of retailers stocked fresh fruits and vegetables, 37 percent incorporated packaged salads and 35 percent added nuts and trail mixes to their selection.
These healthy food options are expected to continue to drive c-store sales. In particular, alternative snacks such as high protein and energy bars are some of the fastest growing product lines in the c-store retail landscape. Another driving factor in c-store sales is prepared foods. In fact, 22.5 percent of the in-store growth in convenience stores during 2017 was primarily driven by foodservice, which includes prepared foods, commissary foods and hot/cold beverages.
Ice-cold beverages attract many consumers to convenience stores during the summer months, according to NACS. The beverage category generates more in-store profits than any other merchandise category. However, as the health food trend continues to grow, convenience stores are now offering low-calorie and low-sugar beverages, including more bottled water options.
The clear and refreshing natural beverage racked up a significant amount of sales in c-stores. This is why 54 percent of retailers claimed to have added flavored/enhanced waters to their product offerings and 52 percent added bottled water. This increase in demand for bottled water has 46 percent of c-store retailers expecting bottled water sales to increase and 42 percent of retailers believe that sparkling water sales will increase. Low-calorie teas and coffees were also mentioned by 42 percent of retailers.
Such healthy product offerings have changed the traditional c-store landscape between 1988 and 2016, as shares of grocery sales doubled from 8 percent to 16 percent. As convenience stores continue to mold themselves along with consumer demands, they are likely to experience more success in the near future.